Friday, February 26, 2021

NTDs Neglected

 Globally, more than one billion people are infected by Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). Of these, almost one third lives in Africa. Now the plague of these neglected diseases has collided with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the result could be disastrous.

The number of NTDs is rising and threatens a new generation of African youth as never before. Governments have concentrated scarce health resources on fighting COVID-19;  field campaigns to fight NTDs have been suspended; and the pandemic is pushing millions of more people into poverty, making it even more difficult to afford basics like healthy food, much less medicines.

In Africa, governments must  protect 560 million people at increasing risk of death and permanent disability from neglected tropical diseases. Children go blind from parasites. Adults suffer disabling pain from Guinea worm disease. Men and women are disfigured with swelling limbs by elephantiasis. Some 20 different neglected tropical diseases kill, impair or permanently disable millions of people every year.

Less than 50 cents  is needed to treat five common NTDs per person per year, limited investments to eradicate NTDs have reflected an insufficient attention to human suffering. It is not just the diseases.  It is a collective negligence of the poor and the voiceless who are the primary target of NTDs, which are spread by unsafe water, poor housing conditions and poor sanitation. Efforts have fallen well short of the need, and have often benefited the wealthy over the poor.

 10 key facts about Neglected Tropical Diseases:

1. Affecting over 1.7 billion globally, NTDs are responsible for thousands of preventable deaths each year. The number of people affected has fallen from 2 billion in 2010 to 1.6 billion in 2017.

These diseases blind, disable and disfigure and perpetuate a cycle of poverty, keeping millions of children out of school and adults from work.

2. The number of NTDs was increased to 20 from 17 in 2016 with three new diseases added - mycetoma, chromoblastomycosis and other deep mycoses; scabies and other ectoparasites; and snakebite envenoming.

3. NTDs are primarily found in poor populations living in tropical and subtropical climates across Africa, Asia and South America.

4. The diseases afflict those without access to clean water, sanitation and the basic health services required to protect themselves against infection by bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. These include communities in remote, rural areas, urban slums or conflict zones.

5. Scientists have voiced concerns that global warming could increase the number of people exposed to mosquito-carrying viruses including dengue fever and Zika virus by one billion by 2080 if the climate continues to warm at current rates.

6. High-income groups are rarely affected. More than 70% of countries and territories that report the presence of NTDs are low-income or lower middle-income economies, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

7. Many NTDs are chronic, slowly developing conditions that become progressively worse if undetected and untreated - and the damage they cause can be irreversible.

For example, trachoma - a bacterial eye infection - damages the eyelids, causing the eyelashes to turn inwards and rub painfully against the eyeball. If not corrected with surgery, it can lead to irreversible vision loss and blindness.

8. NTDs can cause severe pain and life-long disabilities, with long-term consequences for the patient and their family.

People with NTDs are often stigmatized and excluded from society such as people with leprosy. In some countries, leper colonies continue to exist where sufferers are ostracised from society, often with adverse impact on their mental health.

9. In 2012, the WHO and member states agreed on the first global road map aimed at eliminating or eradicating 17 NTDs. Three more diseases: dengue, rabies and snakebite envenoming have since been defined as NTDS.

10. Health experts say efforts to alleviate NTDs are being hampered by the worldwide pandemic, which is pushing already strained healthcare systems to breaking point.

The WHO said in September the outbreak had hit NTD programmes, with countries having to suspend mass treatment interventions and active-case finding and delay diagnosis and treatment.

Critical personnel have been reassigned to deal with COVID-19 and the manufacture, shipment and delivery of medicines has been disrupted, it said, warning of "an increased burden of NTDs".

The impact of COVID on efforts to tackle NTDs could be disastrous (trust.org)

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Energy Poverty in Africa

 Africa accounts for only six percent of global energy demand,

 And a little more than three percent of electricity demand.

The continent has the lowest per capital electricity consumption in the world.

 Out of 790mn people without access to electricity globally, 565mn (72%) are in Africa.

It has been projected that Africans without access to electricity will increase by 30mn in 2020 owing to COVID-19.

900mn people in Africa lack access to clean cooking, which excludes them from economic and health benefits that come with access to clean cooking.

Kevin Kariuki, vice-president power, energy and green growth at the African Development Bank (AfDB)

bne IntelliNews - Africa accounts for just 6% of global energy demand

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Ethiopia's Tigray in Chaos

 “Despite some progress, the humanitarian response remains drastically inadequate compared to the sheer magnitude of needs across the region,” the report by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA) said 

The new United Nations report has sounded the alarm over a “very critical malnutrition situation” unfolding in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, citing continuing insecurity, bureaucracy and the presence of “various armed actors” as major obstructions to the efforts to deliver life-saving aid to rural areas still out of reach for humanitarian workers more than 100 days into the conflict. “Assistance remains particularly limited in rural areas due to access constraints and security volatility, and there are acute gaps and challenges across all sectors.”

The Ethiopian Red Cross warned earlier in February that without improved humanitarian access to a region where 80 percent of the population of six million is still unreachable, tens of thousands of people could starve to death after two months.

The OCHA noted that reports from aid workers on the ground indicate “a rising in acute malnutrition across the region”. According to the report, a screening of 227 children under the age of five showed “staggeringly high malnutrition,” though it did not mention the number of cases. The UN agency also reported that a screening of more than 3,500 children found 109 with severe acute malnutrition. The World Health Organization describes that condition as “when a person is extremely thin and at risk of dying”.

“Malnutrition  is expected to deteriorate as households are limited to fewer meals every day,” the report said.  The OCHA also noted that “extremely concerning reports” of civilians being attacked continue to surface, “including rape and other forms of gender-based violence”.

“Women and children displaced are at heightened risk of abuses and exploitation, while recent assessments in collective centres for displaced people in Mekelle, Adigrat and Shire showed that the severe lack of infrastructure leaves women and girls exposed to sexual and gender-based violence,” the report noted. Soldiers from neighbouring Eritrea have been accused of widespread looting and burning of crops.

Thousands of people are believed to have died since fighting began, with hundreds of thousands forced from their homes and some 60,000 fleeing to neighbouring Sudan.

UN: Tigray malnutrition ‘very critical’, response woefully poor | Human Rights News | Al Jazeera

Friday, February 19, 2021

Using Trees

  


Across the Africa, indigenous fruit trees are valuable assets for local communitiesIndigenous fruits have been collected from the wild for centuries for human consumption and other purposes. Indigenous fruit trees provide vital nutrients that may be scarce in other food sources. They are naturally adapted to local soils and climates, can enhance food and nutrition security and often adapt and survive environmental stresses better than exotic species.

But the natural habitats of trees are being lost, mainly to widespread deforestation resulting from population growth. Industrial agriculture is also contributing to their loss There is still a scarcity of research investment and development for the improvement of underutilised fruit trees in Africa. Many still only grow in the wild. This limits their potential for higher yield and growth.

Research showed that indigenous fruit trees, which occur across different ecological zones in Africa, are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, protein and valuable phytochemicals. They also have recognised medicinal value and are used as therapeutic remedies by many people especially in rural areas with limited access to orthodox health care.

African indigenous fruit trees are under-utilised.

Examples in southern African and other tropical African countries included:

  • African baobab (Adansonia digitata L),

  • Transvaal red milk wood (Mimusops zeyheri Sond.),

  • Wild loquat (Uapaca kirkiana Mull.Arg.),

  • Kei-apple (Dovyalis caffra (Hook.f. & Harv.) Sim), and

  • Mobola plum (Parinari curatellifolia Planch.ex Benth.).

In southern and west Africa we identified that monkey orange (Strychnos spinosa Lam.)

In the south of the Sahel-Savannah region across Africa, especially in West African countries, we identified the balanite (Balanites aegyptiaca (L.) Delile).

The imbe (Garcinia livingstonei T. Anderson) is found in Uganda, the Kingdom of Eswatini (Swaziland), South Africa, Somalia, Angola and Congo.

Also identified the marula (Sclerocarya birrea (A.Rich.) Hochst. subsp. caffra (Sond.) Kokwaro). This is found in Niger, Burkina Faso and Benin. Lastly, the wild medlar (Vangueria infausta Burch.) is found in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Eswatini and South Africa.

The availability of fruits from these trees is guaranteed because of the different fruiting periods. This means they are able to meet the food and nutrition needs of the local communities. Also reported is a rich phytochemical and nutritional content across the selected trees. These included fibre, minerals, carbohydrates, organic acids, fats, proteins, iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc and vitamins. Many of the fruits contain well-known phytochemicals. These included saponins, flavonoids, alkaloids, tannins, cardiac glycosides, terpenes, anthraquinones and phenolics. Examples of the biological activities demonstrated by fruit trees were anti-oxidant, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory activities.

Africa indigenous fruit trees offer major benefits. But they're being ignored (theconversation.com)



Thursday, February 18, 2021

Time to Change Farming

 Farmers across Africa understand that the climate crisis is affecting their harvests and their “daily bread”. In sub-Saharan Africa, growing numbers of people are chronically undernourished, with over 21 percent of the population suffering from severe food insecurity.

 African smallholder farmers have no choice but to adapt to climate change: 2020 was the second hottest year on record, while prolonged droughts and explosive floods are directly threatening the livelihoods of millions. By the 2030s, lack of rainfall and rising temperatures could render 40 percent of Africa’s maize-growing area unsuitable for climate-vulnerable varieties grown by farmers, while maize remains the preferred and affordable staple food for millions of Africans who survive on less than a few dollars of income a day.

 For farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, especially smallholders, this involves producing improved crop varieties that are not only high-yielding but also tolerant to drought and heat, resistant to diseases and insect pests, and can contribute to minimizing the risk of farming under rainfed conditions.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) are the two CGIAR research centers undertaking innovative maize research and development work in the stress-prone environments of Africa. Successful development of improved climate-adaptive maize varieties for sub-Saharan Africa has been spearheaded by these two CGIAR centers that implemented joint projects such as the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) and Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) in partnership with an array of national and private sector partners in the major maize-producing countries in Eastern, Southern, and West Africa. Under the 10-year DTMA initiative, about 160 affordable and scalable maize varieties were released.

High-yielding, multiple stress-tolerant, maize varieties using CIMMYT/IITA maize germplasm released after 2007 (the year the DTMA project was started) are estimated to be grown on 5 million hectares in 2020 in sub-Saharan Africa. The adoption of drought-tolerant (DT) maize varieties helped lift millions of people above the poverty line across the continent. For example, in drought-prone southern Zimbabwe, farmers using DT varieties in dry years were able to harvest up to 600 kilograms more maize per hectare—enough for nine months for an average family of six—than farmers who sowed conventional varieties.

The STMA project that followed DTMA also operated in sub-Saharan Africa, where 176 million people depend on maize for nutrition and economic well-being. The project, which ended in 2020, and followed by a new project called Accelerating Genetic Gains for Maize and Wheat Improvement (AGG), developed new maize varieties that can be successfully grown under drought, sub-optimal soil fertility, heat stress, and diseases and pests. In 2020, CGIAR-related stress-tolerant maize varieties were estimated to be grown on over 5 million hectares, benefiting over 8.6 million smallholder farmers in 13 countries across sub-Saharan Africa.

In Kenya, farmers with the new maize varieties are harvesting 20 to 30 percent more grain than farmers without drought-tolerant seeds. In Zambia, a study by CIMMYT and the Center for Development Research has shown that adopting drought-tolerant maize can increase yields by 38 percent and reduce the risks of crop failure by 36 percent, even though three-quarters of the farmers in the study had experienced drought during the survey.

Without more science-based interventions to align agriculture with climate targets, the number of undernourished people around the world could exceed 840 million by 2030.

African farmers need to adapt quickly to rising temperatures, drawn-out droughts and sharp, devastating floods. With higher-yielding, multiple stress tolerant maize varieties, smallholder farmers have the opportunity to not only combat climatic variabilities, diseases and pests, but can also effectively diversify their farms. This will enable them in turn to have better adaptation to the changing climates and access to well-balanced and affordable diets. As climate change intensifies, so should agricultural innovations. It is time for a “business unusual” approach.

Successful Crop Innovation Is Mitigating Climate Crisis Impact in Africa | Inter Press Service (ipsnews.net)

Locusts About to Swarm

 The news headlines may have disappeared but the locust plague has not. 

In 2018, an intense cyclone season unleashed rain in the immense sandy desert on the southern Arabian Peninsula. The moist sand and sprouting vegetation provided favorable conditions for the locusts to thrive, with massive swarms spreading to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Carried by the wind across the Red Sea, the locusts made landfall on the Horn of Africa in mid-2019 amid perfect conditions for their reproduction: it was one of the wettest years in decades with eight cyclones off East Africa's coast. 

The insects started swarming into Kenya in December 2019, triggering the worst locust outbreak the country has experienced in 70 years.  Various parts of Kenya were then hit by a second wave of the voracious insects last November. Now, a new generation of locusts is breeding and hatching, threatening farmers who are still reeling from the previous swarms as well as years of droughts and floods. 

"We expect the worst if the young hatch in March and April," said Kelvin Shingles, Kenya Country Director for German Agro Action (Deutsche Welthungerhilfe), an aid organization,

"It's not like a fire that you can put out quickly in a couple of days," said Keith Cressman, senior locust forecaster at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). "It takes months and months, perhaps even years, to bring it under control.

Kenya′s farmers face threat of new locust swarms | Africa | DW | 17.02.2021


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Sudan - Food Prices Rise

 Seven regions of Sudan have declared states of emergency following violent protests against food price rises. Curfews have been imposed and schools have been forced to close in 10 cities across Darfur, North Kordofan, West Kordofan and Sennar, regions are among the poorest in the country. Buildings were looted and burned, and food was stolen from markets and shops. 

Millions of people in the country are struggling as the cost of living continues to rise amid economic difficulties. The Sudanese pound dropped against the dollar from 260 pounds (£3.40) in November to 315 pounds last month. The annual rate of inflation increased to 269% in December, up from 254% in November.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) has said food insecurity could reach crisis levels in parts of Kordofan and Darfur in the coming months. The price of bread has soared. The cost of subsidised loaves, which have become scarce, have increased from 2 pounds to 5 pounds, while unsubsidised bread is being sold in some areas of Khartoum for 15 or 20 pounds, and up to 50 pounds in Darfur and Kordofan. In January, the price of 1kg of sugar was 220 pounds, up from 150 pounds in 2020. 

Sudan declares states of emergency after protests over soaring food prices | Global development | The Guardian

The Pandemic Pain of Zimbabwe

 Even before the spread of COVID-19, millions of Zimbabweans were facing food shortages due to the combined effects of a devastating drought and a deepening economic crisis. Now, the situation is compounded by the coronavirus. The health emergency has found Zimbabwe in the mid of a severe economic crisis characterised by hyperinflation foreign currency shortages and a rapidly weakening domestic currency. With more than 90 percent of the cash-strapped country’s population unemployed and holding informal jobs, the coronavirus restrictions have piled more misery and suffering.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is making it especially hard for poor families to afford a nutritious diet, with lack of incomes, remittances and stressed livelihoods having a ruinous effect on vulnerable communities,” said Claire Nevill, spokesperson for the World Food Programme.

Nevill said the United Nations’ food agency estimates about half of all urban dwellers – roughly 2.2 million people – go to bed hungry, adding that some 3.4 million people, including more than a third of the rural population, are expected to face “crisis” or “emergency” levels of hunger in the first quarter – up from 2.6 million people a year ago.

 Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa extended the national lockdown by an additional two weeks. A ban on travelling between provinces remained in place, while a curfew was shortened to nine hours from 12 hours. Meanwhile, staffing levels at government offices was increased to 25 percent capacity from 10 percent, while private companies were allowed to open under strict adherence to World Health Organization guidelines and after testing.

In recent weeks, Zimbabwe has seen an exponential jump in confirmed COVID-19 infections. More than 35,000 cases of the respiratory disease have been recorded to date, almost double the total for all of last year, with nearly 1,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The official coronavirus death toll for the whole of 2020 stood at 409. More than 400,000 people have been arrested for violating lockdown regulations since the latest lockdown was enforced last month.

Zimbabwe says the coronavirus variant first discovered in neighbouring South Africa now makes up more than 60% of cases within its borders.

It is the first country outside of South Africa to report that the so-called "501.YV2" variant is the dominant strain. Botswana, Zambia, Ghana and the Gambia have also found some cases.

‘No choice’: Hunger forces Zimbabweans break COVID lockdown rules | Coronavirus pandemic News | Al Jazeera

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Burkina Faso Needs Aid

 One million people have been driven from their homes by armed groups in Burkina Faso, the world's fastest-growing displacement. In Djibo, the number of displaced people hosted by the community far exceeds the number of inhabitants in the town. The generosity of the locals cannot be overestimated.

Violence and climate change have drastically reduced food production. One person in 10 is food insecure. Without the humanitarian assistance that they receive, thousands of families would go hungry, not knowing where the next meal will come from. 

Nearly a million people have no access to medical care and COVID-19 and the subsequent economic problems have made the situation worse.

2,200 schools are closed in affected areas across the country, depriving 311,000 children of education and putting them at risk of exploitation and abuse. In one of Burkina Faso's most affected regions, Sahel, school attendance has dropped from an already low average of 50-60% to 25% over the past two years. This has an enormous impact on children's futures, particularly for girls, who are often unlikely to return to school.

Opinion: Crisis-crippled Burkina Faso needs urgent help | Opinion | DW | 15.02.2021

Monday, February 15, 2021

Family Planning Increases

The birth rates are still high in Africa are still high but increasing numbers of women are taking advantage of family planning services. According to the latest Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) report, the number has increased by 66% since 2012 — from 40 million to more than 66 million women and girls. In Central and West Africa, the number of female users has doubled, according to FP2020. In eastern and southern Africa, it has increased by as much as 70%. Health care is more in the hands of women, so they don't always have to return to clinics.

 According to UN estimates, the number of people in the continent is expected to double by 2050 — making it increasingly difficult to provide jobs for future generations. UN agencies set an ambitious goal: to get 120 million more people in the world's 69 lowest-income countries to use modern contraceptives by 2020.

A few years ago, Malawi had one of the highest rates of child marriages globally. In 2018, the government put an end to this by raising the minimum age of marriage to 18. Rwanda boasts an innovative idea where condoms and contraceptives are delivered to villages by moped having been ordered by text message — just as in Kenya. 20,000 people are already using a similar service. In Ethiopia, the availability of contraception for young people has grown. The government has trained 40,000 female health workers to work in health clinics in rural areas. In Niger, radio commercials draw attention to the importance of contraception.  In Burkina Faso. She said the government had increased spending by 30% and attracted more donations to reduce pregnancies. Young people are to be integrated into family planning counseling sessions early, and contraceptives are to be distributed freely.

"The desire to have children is changing in most countries with good access to family planning," Catherina Hinz, executive director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, told DW. Her Africa's Demographic Leaders study confirmed this trend, Hinz said. "The more educated the girls are," she added, "the smaller the families." 

It is vital that people no longer have to rely on children to provide for them in old age. 

African women embrace contraceptives as populations grow | Africa | DW | 13.02.2021

DRC - Disease, Displacement and Destruction

 In the 'Democratic' Republic of the Congo nearly 22 million people (a  population number about equal to Netherlands and Ireland combined), are facing starvation and malnutrition.

This is in a country with  more agricultural land (80 million hectares of arable land), than any African country, with the potential to feed up to 2 billion people yet it cannot provide food for its 100 million inhabitants.

In the DRC’s case, however, war is the root cause and the seed of this starvation. Congolese people had already been ravaged by years of imported conflicts, which killed more than 5.4 million people between 1998 and 2008 – mostly through starvation or disease. Half of those who died were children – an entire generation. It is not drought or floods but the international climate of apathy to the suffering and the policy of impunity.  the international community chooses to turn a blind eye, ostensibly for “peace”. Yet there is still no peace to keep. There more than 17,000 UN peacekeepers deployed in the country, almost four times as many as in 2002 but still there is no peace. 

Joseph Kabila, president of the DRC from 2001 to 2019, whose security forces were linked to killings and torture. The Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, who allegedly supported the M23 militia gang responsible for atrocities in the DRC.  Last July, the DRC’s new president, Félix Tshisekedi, promoted General Gabriel Amisi, known as “Tango Four”, to the rank of army inspector general in spite of him being under US and EU sanctions for alleged human rights violations.

There are the growing numbers of militia who are killing Congolese people today. They kill for for control of minerals such as tungsten.  There are more than 100 “devolved” militia groups killing, raping, looting and displacing people who ratchet up the misery caused by diseases, displacement and destruction of local food production and food chains. 

There are about 6.6 million Congolese are internally displaced because of violence; three times as many as in 2002. 

This is an internationally sanctioned catastrophe.

DRC is rich with farmland, so why do 22 million people there face starvation? | Democratic Republic of the Congo | The Guardian

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

3.8 million people in Tigray need help

 Eighty percent of Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region has been cut off from humanitarian assistance and tens of thousands could starve to death, the Ethiopian Red Cross has warned.

The president of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, Abera Tola, told a news conference, adding that some starvation deaths have already been reported and the figures could climb fast.

“The number today could be one, two or three, but you know, after a month it means thousands. After two months it will be tens of thousands.” he said.

Tola said  that aid access remained largely restricted to main roads north and south of Mekelle, excluding most rural areas. Once humanitarian workers are able to reach Tigray’s rural areas, “there we will see a more devastating crisis”. He added, “We have to get prepared for the worst.”

Displaced civilians who have managed to reach camps in Tigrayan towns are “emaciated”, he said.

“You see their skin is really on their bones. You don’t see any food in their body,” he said. “Sometimes it is also really difficult to help them without some kind of high nutritional value foods.”

Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) who visited Tigray this week, told Al Jazeera he was “shocked” by what he encountered, describing accounts by people displaced by the fighting as “unbearable”.

“The situation there is one of the most difficult I’ve ever seen. The people there are missing almost everything,” he said, sounding the alarm over the lack of food and life-saving medicines, among others. Rocca said only four hospitals out of 40 are operational in the region and are all facing major shortages in medical supplies that have crippled doctors’ ability to perform any surgeries. He decried the “unacceptable” looting that has ravaged most of the health facilities in the region, including the disappearance of 140 of IFRC’s ambulances.

‘Tens of thousands’ could starve to death in Ethiopia’s Tigray | Ethiopia News | Al Jazeera

Tanzania's President in Denial

 In almost a repeat of the former South African president, Mbeki's HIV/AIDS denialism, Tanzania's president, John Magufuli.  downplays the severity of the coronavirus.

In May 2020, he declared that through prayer, Tanzania had defeated the coronavirus.

Tanzania's refusal to provide COVID-19 data and procure vaccines could endanger its neighbouring nations.

The minister of health, Dorothy Gwajima,  told citizens to use traditional ways to protect themselves


Friday, February 05, 2021

Convicted for Doing the Lord's Work

 It is strange that when some Islamic fundamentalist jihadist commits an atrocity, all Muslims are complicit for the crime in the media's eyes.

Dominic Ongwen,  commander of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), was convicted on 61 of the 70 counts of crimes against humanity and other war crimes of murder, rape torture, sexual enslavement and pillaging, among others. The ruling by the  International Criminal Court also saw him convicted of forced pregnancy - a legal first.

An LRA attack on Lukodi refugee camp in northern Uganda, children were disembowelled and the charred bodies of babies left in shallow graves. Civilians were shot, burned and beaten to death. Children were thrown into burning houses, some were put in a polythene bag and beaten to death.

The LRA was formed in Uganda where it said its goal was to install a government based on the biblical 10 commandments. Led by Joseph Kony, it became notorious for abducting thousands of children to use as soldiers or sex slaves.

Dominic Ongwen convicted of war crimes for Uganda's LRA rebels - BBC News

Thursday, February 04, 2021

The African Covid Crisis

Tanzania has rejected vaccinations altogether, raising fears that the east African country could act as a reservoir for the disease and threaten progress elsewhere. President John Magufuli said last week that Tanzania had “lived for over one year without the virus because our God is able and Satan will always fail” and insisted the pandemic can be fought with herbal remedies.

There is growing evidence that the 3.6m cases and 93,000 deaths from Covid-19 in Africa counted by the CDC may be a significant underestimate, deepening concerns that tens of thousands could die in the coming months if enough vaccines are not made available. Health systems across the continent have been overwhelmed since December as the second wave pushed daily recorded infections above 30,000. Oxygen has been in short supply, workers exhausted, and crematoria unable to meet demand. There have been acute shortages of beds in even relatively wealthy countries and high-profile casualties.  The case fatality rate in Africa was now 2.6%, above the global average of 2.2%

African Union  announced it had secured 670m doses for its 54 member countries, only 50m are likely to be available before June and the winter in the southern parts of the continent. It is estimated Africa will need 1.5bn vaccine doses to immunise 60% of its 1.3bn inhabitants, costing between $7bn and $10bn.

Even before the second wave, Covid killed more than 300 health workers in South Africa’s stretched public health care system. In Sudan, 41 doctors died from Covid-19 between March and January, medical associations said. The country has less than six doctors for every 10,000 people, half the minimum level recommended by the WHO. High numbers of casualties among health workers have also been reported in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Kenya, where 30 doctors had died by November. Enema Amodu, the chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association, said at least 20 doctors died there in a single week in December after getting coronavirus. In Malawi, new cases increased exponentially in January, doubling every four to five days, and nine frontline health workers have died after testing positive for Covid-19.

 Only a few countries in Africa will start immunising even frontline health workers until much later this year, prompting accusations that large orders by wealthy nations are costing the lives of medical staff in poorer parts of the world. Only six countries in Africa have now received relatively small quantities of vaccine,

“We haven’t started because we didn’t have the vaccines … some countries placed very important premarket commitments that made it difficult for vaccines to be available in Africa,” said Dr John Nkengasong, director of African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

“It would be indefensible if some countries started to vaccinate their lower-risk citizens while many countries in Africa are still waiting to vaccinate their very first frontline health workers,” said Christine Jamet, director of operations for the medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières. “This is a global pandemic that requires a global spirit of solidarity if we truly hope to bring it under control.”

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization regional director for Africa, said that the continent was “at a crossroads”.

Nigeria was spared the worst in its first Covid-19 wave that began in February last year. But more than half of Nigeria’s 131,242 confirmed cases have been logged in the past three months. Fatalities now total 1,586.

In South Africa, the country with the most reliable statistics, excess mortality figures suggest the true death toll from the disease may be as much as three times the official total of 44,000. The most recent statistics show more than 50,000 excess deaths in the four weeks from 27 December.

“The priority now is protecting frontline health workers,” said Marion Péchayre, MSF’s head of mission in Lilongwe. “If Malawi had 40,000 doses of vaccine, we could at least start by vaccinating health staff in the country’s main hotspots. Without this, the situation will soon be untenable.”

African nations fear more Covid deaths before vaccination begins | Global development | The Guardian

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Africans who got richer

 Africa's 18 billionaires are worth an average $4.1 billion, 12% more than a year ago, driven in part by Nigeria’s surging stock market. 

For the tenth year in a row, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria is the continent’s richest person, worth $12.1 billion, up by $2 billion from last year’s list thanks to a roughly 30% rise in the share price of Dangote Cement, by far his most valuable asset. 

 The second richest is Nassef Sawiris of Egypt, whose largest asset is a nearly 6% stake in sportswear maker Adidas.

At number three: Nicky Oppenheimer of South Africa, who inherited a stake in diamond firm DeBeers and ran the company until 2012, when he sold his family’s 40% stake in DeBeers to mining giant AngloAmerican for $5.1 billion. 

Africa’s Wealthiest have Come through the Pandemic just Fine - iAfrica

Monday, February 01, 2021

Condoning Corruption

  Trump  reversed US policy and quietly eased sanctions against billionaire Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler. A last-minute license issued by the US Department of Treasury and not publicly announced does not entirely remove Gertler and his companies from the US sanctions list, though it does allow them to conduct business transactions, while requiring them to file reports on financial activities every 90 days. Unlike the pardons and regulatory changes done openly, or any of Treasury's normal methods for undoing sanctions, this was done behind closed doors not only to the public but many professionals in the government as well."

Gertler was put on the sanctions list by the US State Department in December 2017, for "opaque and corrupt mining deals" stemming from his friendship with then Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila. The State Department says Gertler cheated the DRC out of $1.4 billion (€1.15 billion) in tax revenue over the course of a decade. Further sanctions were applied in June 2018. The State Department sanctions barred Gertler from conducting business with US citizens, businesses and banks, essentially prohibiting him from making transactions in dollars.

Gertler, whose name appeared in the Panama Papers in connection with a number of holding companies registered in offshore tax havens, is said to have leveraged his friendship with Kabila to access Congo's rich resources. The desperately impoverished country is home to the world's largest cobalt deposits as well as massive copper, diamond, gold, tin and coltan reserves.

 Now, rights groups are calling on President Joe Biden to reinstate sanctions and to revoke this effective pardon.

Trump secretly eased sanctions against Israeli billionaire on way out | News | DW | 26.01.2021